This is especially the case if you are meeting with an executive recruiter. The honest truth is that the hiring firm is the one paying the fees (and supporting the recruiter’s income), and you are the means to get that fee. The recruiter will want to present the finest two or three candidates for that particular position, and the impression you make upon the recruiter is absolutely critical for you to be chosen as one of those candidates.
I can safely say that in 20 ++ years as a recruiter, a majority of my placements have been with candidates that lacked at least 30 or 40% of the “required” qualifications, but the lack of those qualifications was superseded by their personality and chemistry with the hiring manager and the other members of the team. I have met with a couple thousand candidates, and trust me, as easy going as I might be in that meeting, I watch every move made and word that is said. After all, it is also my reputation on the line when I submit a candidate, and naturally, I want to be earning that fee by providing the candidate that is hired.
To make your first impression on the recruiter a good one: smile, have plenty of questions, and make sure that you present yourself as articulate, bright, ambitious, friendly, and capable of adapting into most scenarios in a professional environment. My feeling is that the experienced executive recruiters at the top of their respective fields typically will consider themselves to be your career agent if you are a particularly strong candidate. They will represent you into a company and push for you to be the candidate that their client hires, providing you with interviewing strategies and techniques, substantial background information about the company, group, and individuals that you will be interviewing with, and a variety of additional advice that will put you ahead of your competition.
This is why I find that meeting my candidates is absolutely essential when determining the most appropriate candidates to represent, and why you should push hard to get a face-to-face meeting with the recruiter (assuming of course that you are in close enough proximity to be able to meet them). Not only do you want to put “a face to the name” to that person representing you, but more importantly, have the ability to showcase how you will perform in person in the interview process. This also makes it easier for me as a recruiter to be able to advise you on interview strategies that will play to your strengths during the interviews.
A large percentage of recruiters throw resumes at the wall, hoping for one to stick, and unfortunately that’s just how it is. If you manage to have a recruiter who seems to be representing your interests in alignment with those of his/her clients, make sure you push for a meeting with that recruiter. After all, they will be able to represent you more accurately, and with greater enthusiasm (because you have impressed them of course!) to the hiring manager you are hoping to meet with. But remember, make that first impression a positive and memorable one!